- Leave the Traveller’s Rest, replete with a fine breakfast.
- Take care crossing the busy A591, especially if there are 12 in the party.
- Pass through the gate (signpost).
- Follow the edge of the field….
- …to the stepping-stones across Tongue Gill.
Hang on though – this won’t do, how did they get to be in the Traveller’s Rest in the first place?
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
- Enrol at Manchester University in the mid-eighties.
- Join the Hiking Club.
- Go hiking, drink beer, spend weekends in draughty hostels in Snowdonia or the Lakes, Christmas and Easter holidays in draughty hostels in Scotland, summer weekends and weeks back-packing in various locales.
- Find yourself, somehow a member of the Hiking Club committee.
- Organise hiking trips, weekends in draughty hostels…etc.
- When life catches up with you and you have to get a job, carry on hiking, drinking beer, spending weekends in draughty hostels etc – with the same people.
- Push the boat out: try a few trips to the Alps – with the same people.
- Twenty something years pass.
You may find yourself in another part of the world
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife
- But still occasionally hiking, drinking beer etc…with those same people.
Whilst we still love draughty hostels, these days we occasionally stretch to something more up-market, like the Traveller’s Rest near Grasmere. An awful forecast for the Saturday had been amended at the last moment to something much more promising, which is how we came to be at the stepping stones across Tongue Gill…
- Cross the humpback bridge over the River Rothay.
- Follow a minor lane and then a track past the (not draughty at all) former YHA, now independent, Hostel at Thorny How.
- Resist the temptation of the white ribbon of Sourmilk Gill and take the track by Far Easedale Gill…
- Turn left over the footbridge.
Hold it fellas. That don’t move me. Let’s get real, real gone for a change.
No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses – well, I may have – but the thing is, at some point during this walk, maybe whilst we were climbing up towards Tarn Crag, stopping frequently to admire the views unfolding behind…
At some point during this walk, Andy and I were discussing the gentle art of blogging about walking, and the potential pitfall of the ‘we climbed over the stile, followed the hedgerow to the gate, stopped to eat a ham and mustard butty and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, stepped in a cowpat,…’ blow-by-blow description of a day in the life of a mid-life rambler.
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
So, enough of the mundane details, and the personal history – what was truly memorable about the day?
Tarn Crag (probably a mundane detail that….hmmm).
The company was great. The white-bait in chilli batter, and baked sea bream in the pub which rounded off the day was pretty special.
I always relish an encounter with wildlife and this is a good area for ravens, and also for red deer….
But it was the quality and changing nature of the low-angled light which really sticks in my mind. After we came home from our weekend away, I found this, which seems apposite:
Today is one of those excellent January partly cloudies in which light chooses an unexpected part of the landscape to trick out in gilt, and then shadow sweeps it away. You know you are alive. You take huge steps, trying to feel the planet’s roundness arc between your feet.
Anne Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
The day had begun remarkably mild, in fact I was down to just a t-shirt for a while early-on, but the temperature plummeted and soon hail and snow showers were tracking through, rucksacks were raided for hats, gloves and extra layers.
The showers contrived to mostly pass us by, however, and the changeable weather just added to the glory of it all.
All of the usual stuff happened – stories were revisited, news was caught up on, butties were scoffed, the world was set to rights, futile attempts were made to outflank boggy bits – but all the while the sweeping shadows and slanting light, the veiling and unveiling clouds and showers were putting on a fantastic display.
Now, where did I leave you? Oh yes – from Tarn Crag we picked a way through the rugged, knuckled slopes up to Codale Head.
TBH near Codale Head*.
Sergeant Man from Codale Head.
And then skirted a boggy hollow to the rather busy pimple of Sergeant Man.
As we wandered down the long ridge which flanks Langdale the light show continued. From Blea Rigg we watched the sunlight coming over the dark shoulders of the Pikes slowly disappearing from the surface of Stickle Tarn.
As the sun began to sink to the south-west, with snow or hail in the intervening air, we saw the valleys of the Coniston Fells fill with warm shafts of light.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and even as I photographed the strange orange glow in the sky, I was sure that the photos wouldn’t do it justice. They don’t.
Behind us, the knolls and hollows of the ridge were bathed in a golden light, topped off with a short but intense rainbow.
I know beauty and I know a good thing when I see it
Off course – there was a price to pay for all of this splendour. As we’d packed the car the evening before, TBH had said, “Don’t forget your head-torch. We’ll probably be finishing in the dark. You know what your lot are like.” (Of course, these are TBH’s friends too, the real implication here was that it would be my fault if and when we finished in the dark.) Anyway, it was a fair point: we did finish in the dark. Fortunately, I’d packed my head-torch, thanks to her timely reminder. So had TBH – in her handbag, which was where it still was as we made a long, steepish and very boggy descent back to the valley.
I’m not sure that I ever took huge steps and I assuredly don’t now. I don’t know that I could claim to have felt the planet’s roundness arc between my feet. But I knew that I was alive, and glad of it, and that will do for now.
Envious of Andy’s glorious slideshows, I’ve had another stab at one myself. Something is amiss, the pictures are not particularly sharp, but it took me awhile to put it together, so here it is anyway:
There’s a flickr slideshow here with even more photos. If you played the video, but watched that slideshow in another tab, you’d get sharper images with sounds too.
Andy’s account of the day, and his far superior slideshow, are here.
One of the principle impressions Andy seems to have been left with, was just how wet it was underfoot and how cold and wet his feet were. Despite plunging through no end of bog, especially near the end of the day in the dark, I finished with dry feet, which is almost unheard of. Marvellous. More of why that was anon.
*TBH has been peering over my shoulder as I write and reports the following conversation from Codale Head:
“Did you take a photo?”
“But I wasn’t smiling.”
“That’s okay – I wanted a figure in the foreground.”
Apparently, this answer lacks the proper charm and tact a considerate husband would muster. Personally, it just seems to me that I can’t win – TBH is always telling me that I should strive to have more people in my photos, so I take a photo with a person in it…..
And finally, another way in which I’ve decided to shake things up: there are quotes from four songs (not really lyrics in one case) scattered through the post. Can you name the tunes and the artists? Answers on a postcard please…or maybe in a comment. No prizes on offer, but no end of points available pop-pickers.